Oxford nightlife comes in two forms. The first is the ‘shit club’, Camera or Bridge, where no one will notice whether you’re wearing a trendy crop top or farm animal fancy dress and where you can throw some shapes to the UK Top 40 till closing time at about 2am. The second is the ‘alternative night’, holding dominion in Baby Love or Carbon, where you look out of place if you’re not wearing a wavey shirt and bucket hat and people go as much for the edgy club photo as for the ‘sick tunes’.
The former knows what it is (i.e. a bit crap, but fun). The latter decidedly does not. ‘Alternative nights’ are forever trying to find some ploy to draw in the punters , normally taking the form of irony or nostalgia. A recent clubnight – which will remain unnamed – advertised free entry if you brought a NOKIA 3330 and a crisp giveaway while the flyers were plastered with the grinning face of Craig David. These gimmicky selling points imply that you can’t go and enjoy yourself unless you are dripping with introspective irony and that you can’t listen to music unless it’s harking back to the bygone age of our childhood when there was ‘good music’.
I don’t know about anyone else but when 90s music was in its heyday I was under five years old and had very little in the way of a musical radar. But more importantly, where did the idea that there isn’t any good contemporary music come from? Oxford is the birthplace of Foals and Radiohead, it is clearly not devoid of nascent musical talent. I am not hipster-bashing, alternative nights are just as legit as mainstream ones. I’m merely saying that if you are going clubbing for the music, surely you should go and see new music written and produced by current up-and-coming artists, rather than pretending to go to indie clubs ‘for the music’ when they play the very same tunes as on the RnB floor of Parkerz.
One night that does promote budding local talent and celebrate the music of current artists is Deep Cover, which is holiding its seventeenth night this Friday. The clubnight, and eponymous record label, were set up by Simon Devenport, a recent graduate of Keble, and a group of his friends, all of whom write and produce their own music. DJ ROMO of Worcester College, for example, released his first EP by burning it onto 300 USB sticks and distributing them around Oxford. There is no reason why Oxford should not be at the forefront of cultural exploits, including DJing and electronic music and these students might well be the next big thing.
What started as a small night with a few student DJs has since turned into a cultural happening featuring big cheeses in the music industry. On Friday the student musicians – VLVT, Trench, Rizzly Bear, ROMO etc – will be joined by geniunely big names in grime. Flowdan, a member of English grime crew Roll Deep, who was flown in from Berlin to play at the last Deep Cover night, will return to headline, supported by Kiss and Rinse FM DJs, Spyro and Logan Sama and Lord of the Mics. It is a line-up that far transcends the modest and intimate setting of The Cellar. And this is proven by the fact that there will be a supplementary sound system installed for the night, as well as a film crew immortalising the event.
Deep Cover not only promises to be an enjoyable night, it marks an exciting new departure for students with an interest in the music industry. It also proves that there is more to the ‘alternative’ Oxford nightlife than gimicks and knock-offs; there’s real music.